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Microsoft copied its new Windows Package Manager from rival AppGet, claims developer

Microsoft copied its new Windows Package Manager from rival AppGet, claims developer

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Sherlocking, but for Windows

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Image by Alex Castro / The Verge

Microsoft surprised everyone with its new Windows Package Manager (winget) last week, but it looks like the company copied the core mechanics from a developer it interviewed and ghosted. Keivan Beigi, the developer behind package manager AppGet, has provided a detailed account of Microsoft reaching out to him last year with interest in his work before going quiet and then launching its own winget rival. It sounds like Sherlocking —  a term that refers to Apple undercutting third-party apps by building their functionality directly into macOS or iOS — but in the Microsoft and Windows world.

AppGet is a free and open source package manager for Windows, which automates installing software on Windows PCs. It caught the attention of Microsoft last year, after Andrew Clinick, a program manager responsible for the app model at Microsoft, reached out to AppGet developer Keivan Beigi. The conversations eventually led to Clinick inviting the developer to interview for a role at Microsoft that would see him working on improving software distribution in Windows through his work on AppGet.

Microsoft’s winget package manager.
Microsoft’s winget package manager.

Beigi interviewed in December, and then never heard anything back from the company for nearly six months until he received a 24-hour heads up that Microsoft was launching winget last week. “When I finally saw the announcement and the GitHub repositories, I was shocked? Upset? I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at,” says Beigi.

Beigi claims the “core mechanics, terminology, the manifest format and structure, even the package repository’s folder structure” of Microsoft’s winget are all heavily inspired by AppGet. Microsoft only briefly mentions AppGet once in its announcement, in a throwaway line that lists other Windows package managers.

“What was copied with no credit is the foundation of the project. How it actually works,” explains Beigi in a separate Reddit post. “And I don’t mean the general concept of package / app managers... WinGet works pretty much identical to the way AppGet works.”

Beigi is now ceasing work on AppGet as Microsoft forges ahead with winget. In an email to The Verge, he says there would be no point competing. “I don’t think fragmenting the ecosystem will benefit anyone,” says Beigi. AppGet will now be shut down on August 1st, and Beigi is mostly unhappy with how Microsoft didn’t credit him for his work.

“The announcement was especially bad given how little credit was given to AppGet compared to other projects,” says Beigi. He’s looking for recognition from Microsoft more than anything. “I think some attribution / credit would be fair but I don’t think it really matters what I’d like to happen,” says Beigi, noting he has been blown away by the response to his blog post.

“When writing the article I tried to be as factual and fair as I possibly could,” says Beigi. “And it has been extremely gratifying to know that I’m not crazy and the whole situation was as unfair as I thought and outsiders tend to agree.”

Other developers of open source software have found themselves in similar situations where Microsoft’s own software has been heavily inspired by alternatives that are free and open source. Brisbane-based software developer Paul Stovell warned earlier this year that Microsoft does its homework on open source alternatives. If Microsoft releases its own competitor then, Stovell says, “it’s unlikely they didn’t do their research or weren’t aware of the alternative.”

We reached out to Microsoft to comment on the AppGet situation, and the company says it’s investigating. “We regret to hear about this candidate’s experience and are reviewing the circumstances internally,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge.

Update, May 28th 10AM ET: Updated article with comment from Microsoft.

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